UNEASY LIES THE HEAD….Fred Kaplan, writing two months ago about the term limits that prevent Russian president Vladimir Putin from running for a third term:

It’s worth recalling, given the present situation, how Putin became president. In August 1999, [Boris] Yeltsin appointed him prime minister. In December, Yeltsin suddenly resigned. Under Russia’s constitution, the prime minister succeeds the president in such circumstances, so Putin rose to become acting president — giving him the presumptive lead in the election the following March.

Putin inherited the supreme presidential powers of Yeltsin’s constitution. If Putin does run for parliament and then becomes prime minister, he might, as some speculate, pull the strings from behind the scenes, like a puppeteer, while the president — who will no doubt be handpicked by Putin, just as Putin was handpicked by Yeltsin — only pretends to make the decisions.

That’s one scenario. There’s another one, though, which would reprise his earlier path to the top: His handpicked president resigns soon after the election, and, to the cheers of hundreds of thousands who throng Red Square as witnesses, Czar Vladimir once more ascends to the throne.

The New York Times, today:

A day after President Vladimir V. Putin endorsed a loyal protege, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor, Mr. Medvedev went before the nation today and declared that he in turn wanted to name Mr. Putin as his prime minister.

….Some analysts conjectured that Mr. Medvedev could even step down before his term as president ends — clearing the way for Mr. Putin to be elevated from prime minister to president, which would be possible under the Constitution.

Indeed. Of course, there are also other ways for a president to “step down.” Mr. Medvedev might do well to keep his eye on the Russian supply of polonium-210.